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Playoff-bound Isles overcome last-second goal en route to shootout win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Islanders were pushed

to the limit to earn the final playoff spot in the Eastern

Conference.

Elias Says

New York Islanders
The Islanders earned the two points they needed to qualify for the playoffs with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Devils. But it wasn't easy. New York could taste a regulation win before John Madden's goal with nine-tenths of a second remaining in the third period knotted the game. It was the first game-tying goal at 19:59 of the third period in the NHL this season. Elias Says

The Islanders needed a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday to complete a sweep of their final four games and

earn a first-round showdown with the top-seeded Buffalo Sabres.

"We didn't lose any hope," Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt

said. "We could've easily said, 'Oh, it's not meant to be.' But

guys battled hard in overtime and got us out in the shootout."

The win triggered a wild on-ice celebration by the Islanders,

seemingly out of the Stanley Cup hunt one week ago. They regrouped

in front of third-string goalie Wade Dubielewicz to edge the

Toronto Maple Leafs for the last playoff berth on the final day of

the regular season.

Toronto finished its season Saturday night with a 6-5 win over

the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs had 91 points, one more

than the Islanders.

The Islanders mission was simple: win, and they were in the

playoffs.

Despite squandering a 2-0 lead in the third period, the

Islanders beat the Devils in the shootout. Miroslav Satan and

Viktor Kozlov, the first two shooters, scored for New York and

Dubielewicz made poke saves on Brian Gionta and Sergei Brylin to

send the Islanders into the postseason.

Once again, Dubielewicz was the hero. The 28-year-old goalie,

playing in only his 17th NHL game, improved his record to 4-1 since

being called up from the minors on March 27. The Islanders turned

to him out of desperation when Mike Dunham struggled after

replacing Rick DiPietro, who was sidelined for the final seven

games with a concussion.

In regulation, the Islanders got two goals by Richard Park.

Dubielewicz made 22 saves through regulation and overtime before

making the two crucial stops in the shootout.

The Islanders caught a break when the Devils rested ironman

goalie Martin Brodeur, 6-1 against the Islanders with three

shutouts this season. Scott Clemmensen got the call, making only

his fourth start of the season.

Devils general manager and coach Lou Lamoriello didn't listen to

critics who suggested Brodeur should have played -- given the

magnitude of the game for the Islanders and Maple Leafs.

"We have to do what is best for our hockey club," Lamoriello

said. "I don't want to be derogatory, but you can not think any

other way."

The Islanders got off to a quick start.

Park gave New York a 1-0 lead at 11:53 of the first, knocking in

Jeff Tambellini's rebound in a goal-mouth scramble. The score

brought loud cheers from the large contingent of Islanders fans on

hand.

Park scored again at 7:51 of the third with a wrister from the

high slot that sailed over Clemmensen's shoulder.

John Madden scored twice for the Devils to send the game into

overtime and ultimately, the shootout.

Madden deflected a shot from Jay Pandolfo with 4:13 remaining.

With Clemmensen on the bench for an extra attacker, Madden tied

the score with less than one second remaining. Dubielewicz made a

sprawling save on Madden's initial shot but was helpless as Madden

backhanded his own rebound into the net.

A video review confirmed that the goal was scored before time

expired.

"That was probably the toughest thing I've ever had to deal

with," Dubielewicz said. "I just couldn't believe it. I really

couldn't believe that we were that close. I was pretty confident

that we were going to win the game at that point. They just kept

plugging away and they were able to get it."

Both teams had excellent chances to win in the overtime.

Dubielewicz stopped Patrik Elias early in the session while

Clemmensen stopped Satan in the slot 2½ minutes in.

A postseason berth for the Islanders and Maple Leafs then came

down to a shootout.

"If you're an old-school hockey fan, you're probably not too

excited about the way this finished," Devils center Scott Gomez

said. "If you ask a fan who was here today, I'm sure they would

tell you it was incredible."

The loss ended the Devils four-game winning streak. The Patrick

Division winners had no incentive as their playoff position as the

second seed in the conference was already assured. The Devils will

face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round.

Game notes
The Devils activated defenseman Richard Matvichuk on Sunday from

the long-term injury list. Matvichuk had not played this year

because of a combination of a back injury and the Devils inability

to squeeze him under the salary cap. The Devils cleared roster

space by assigning defenseman Andy Greene and winger Cam Janssen to Lowell

(AHL). ... By sitting out, Brodeur fell one game shy of tying Grant

Fuhr's record of 79 appearances by a goalie set in the 1995-96

season with St. Louis. ... The game might have been the Devils

final regular-season contest in the Continental Airlines Arena.

They hope to complete construction of the Prudential Center in

Newark, N.J. for the start of next season.